Blair denies Mugabe coup bid
TONY BLAIR has denied planning to overthrow Robert Mugabe after Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's former president, claimed that he was asked to help such an operation.
The former British prime minister denied Mr Mbeki's version of events, recounted in an interview with al-Jazeera.
When Zimbabwe sank into economic collapse in 2000, South Africa and Britain had different views about how to respond. Mr Mbeki favoured a negotiated settlement; Mr Blair wanted Mr Mugabe to go.
"There were other people saying, 'Yes indeed there are political problems, economic problems, the best way to solve them is regime change. So Mugabe must go'. But we said, 'Mugabe is part of the solution to this problem'," Mr Mbeki said.
Mr Mbeki recalled that Lord Guthrie, Mr Blair's first chief of the defence staff, said in 2007 that "people were always trying to get me to look at" the option of toppling Mr Mugabe by force. Lord Guthrie did not say whether these requests had come from Mr Blair.
But Mr Mbeki noted: "There is a retired chief of the British Armed Forces and [he] said that he had to withstand pressure from the then prime minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, who was saying. . . 'you must work out a military plan so we that can physically remove Robert Mugabe'. It was a regime change scheme -- even to the point of using military force, and we said 'no'."
Mr Blair's spokesman said: "Tony Blair has long believed that Zimbabwe would be much better off without Robert Mugabe. . . but he never asked anyone to plan or take part in any such military intervention." (© Daily Telegraph, London)